Arizona Sustainability Report: How Well Is The State Doing?

Environment | 1 Sep, 2011 |

Phoenix and Arizona Sustainability: How does Arizona fare when it comes to being green?
The Good, the Bad and the Dirty

It seems like every week there’s a new list or report being published. So it’s hard to keep track of how our region is faring, and it’s even more challenging to cull what’s credible and what’s not.

That said, I’m particularly interested in how we’re doing from an environmental standpoint. Based on recent reports, Phoenix has been ranking fairly well in most categories, including green jobs, solar installations and overall sustainability factors. But our metropolitan area still has some setbacks with high pollution ratings.

Arizona, overall, doesn’t appear to be doing as well. Ironically, the state as a whole is not ranking as high on similar lists as the Valley. For example, Phoenix was ranked in the top 10 sustainable U.S. metro areas by Site Selection magazine in its “Green Guide 2011” last month. Site Selection Sustainability Rankings were derived from a unique index of data ranging from the overall size of the green industry to the level of incentives available to support green projects. Arizona as a state did not even make the magazine’s top 10 list.

In the jobs department, a recent list shows Greater Phoenix ranked 20th out of the top 100 metropolitan areas for the proportion of jobs connected with the “green” or “clean” economy in 2010, according to a study compiled by the Metropolitan Policy Program at Brookings. Again, Arizona ranked lower – 25thout of 50 states.

Many wonder for all the rhetoric if we’re really on our way to becoming the solar capitol of the world. In the renewable arena, Arizona did make great strides in 2010, taking fourth place for deployment of photovoltaic installations statewide, according to a study by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and GTM Research. Arizona’s total was 54 megawatts, helped by federal incentives as well as those from programs at APS and SRP and only trailing California, New Jersey and Nevada. Another report by the SEIA ranked Arizona in terms of solar installations during the first quarter of 2011.

Unfortunately, we’re not doing so well in air quality – the Valley is still perceived as being dirty, albeit no longer the dirtiest in the country. According to a report released by the Lung Association in April 2011, the Phoenix Metro region ranked second worst of the five metropolitan areas with the highest year-round levels of fine-particle air pollution. On the flip side, Tucson ranked third lowest in the same category. lung association noted that the Phoenix region improved its rankings in the report card’s two other categories, falling from 14thin 2010 to 24thfor short-term dust pollution and from 11thto 19thin ozone.Overall, Maricopa County received a failing grade for ozone in the lung association’s report card, as did Gila, Pinal and Yuma counties.

So, what does this all mean? Regardless of the rankings, we need to do a better job of fostering collaboration in Arizona. Our legislators, municipal leaders, county officials, tribes, corporations and non-profit organizations must work together to advocate a balanced public policy agenda and effectively manage statewide growth concerns that impact both our quality of life and economic competitiveness.


Quick Links about Phoenix & Arizona Sustainability Progress

Green Guide 2011

Metropolitan Policy Program study

Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) study

SEIA report, solar installations

Lung Association report

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